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Review: ‘Gold’ is filled with riches and rocks (Includes first-hand account)

During the Gold Rush, most lands were untouched and anyone could strike it rich with a little luck. But the more metal deposits they found, the harder it became to find new ones. Now trained geologists study the composition of certain areas and try to predict the location of new resources, but it’s not an exact science and there’s more misses than there are hits. In Gold, two guys who’ve experienced significant misses in recent years may have finally found the target.

Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) inherited his family’s mining business and unintentionally ran it into the ground. Barely surviving on the returns of past investments, it’s become do or die time but there isn’t anything promising on the horizon. Then Kenny has a dream and the next day he’s on a plane to Indonesia to meet with Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramírez), a man with a theory. After visiting Michael’s chosen location, Kenny commits to finding the money so they can begin mining. What follows is a series of ups and downs, which includes malaria, angry investors, happy investors, inquiries, awards and buyouts. By the end, it comes down to who is smarter than everyone else.

Kenny and Michael are very different people; the former is loud, crass and impulsive, while the latter is quiet, strategic and rational. Kenny is a bit of a salesman and Michael is more of an academic who likes to be in the field. Kenny loves being surrounded by people and talking to as many of them as possible, while Michael would rather be in the jungle overseeing the mine than dealing with the minutia of the business. Yet they share the same dream and together they make an unstoppable team. When things don’t go their way, they find a way to regain the advantage — Michael proves especially good at this part. But what Kenny lacks in proprieties, he makes up for in passion.

The film runs about two hours, which is a little long for a movie with a sometimes dull subject matter. Surprisingly, the negotiations stateside are usually more interesting than the excavation. The scenes in Indonesia generally consist of long boat rides, sacks filled with dirt and trudging through the wild vegetation in between a few significant narrative developments. If the intention was to make mining interesting, they don’t succeed since most of the process is kept out of view (even the walkthrough is vague) — the only evidence they found something valuable is a piece of paper reporting the analysis of their samples and the happy dance that follows its receipt.

Nonetheless, it’s the performances that will keep the audience’s attention. The role of Kenny was basically written for McConaughey. Even though he’s nearly unrecognizable, having gained about 40 lbs. and partially shaved his full head of hair to physically match the character, he flawlessly delivers all the character’s bravado over a layer of desperation, pig-headedness and compassion. He knows they’re on the ropes and he really wants to give his team a win; and once he gets it, he refuses to let anyone take it away from him. Michael is surprisingly tolerant of Kenny’s behaviour. Ramírez has a much more thoughtful part to play in the story as he feels like it all rests on his shoulders since he pinpointed the location; and even though his performance is subtler, he exudes the same desperation. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Kenny’s long-time girlfriend who’s stuck by him through the hard times by working two jobs and supporting his every hair-brained scheme. However, Howard skillfully underlies her performance with the love, frustration and wonder she’s developed for Kenny over the years.

Director Stephen Gaghan knows how to construct an engaging movie about big industry and its respective players, and there are many reasons to see this film — but a detailed representation of mining is not one of them… though if you’re in New York, perhaps you can find a little gold yourself.

Director: Stephen Gaghan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramírez and Bryce Dallas Howard

Written By

Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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